You don’t need to go far to hear someone mention their step count. In the age of technology, with over 216.43 million people sporting a smartwatch worldwide, it has never been a better time to hone in on tracking your physical activity.
Importance of taking steps
The importance of physical activity is well known. Be active, stay healthy—pretty simple stuff.
But when it comes to activity level, one surprisingly effective exercise directly helps you stay healthy: walking.
Walking is a simple and effective exercise for staying healthy and losing weight. By walking at a brisk pace for only 30 minutes per day, you could burn up to 150 extra calories. But even more importantly, walking can help keep you healthy for the long haul.
According to a study in Nature Journal, taking 8,200 or more steps per day can decrease your risk of obesity and disease.¹
Simply put, researchers have found that the more steps people take over time, the more likely they are to lose weight and the less likely they are to develop illnesses such as obesity, sleep apnea, and depression.
Walking is also an excellent tool to complement your training. On a training day, reach your step goal before and after your session to keep your body moving all day and burn far more calories. On a rest day, go for a long walk as a form of active recovery to help you recharge and be fresh for your next workout.
Walking is easy to work into your day, can serve a plethora of physical and mental health purposes, can be fun and relaxing, and is a great way to listen to music, catch up on a podcast or audiobook, or spend time with loved ones. It is the magic pill, as some researchers have described it.
Benefits of tracking your steps
So now you know that walking more daily is important. But why do you need to track your steps?
Simply put: tracking makes planning and progress possible.
Take dieting as an example. One study showed that of 272 people on diets, those that accurately monitored their food intake, physical activity, and body weight more frequently experienced greater weight loss.²
Data like calorie tracking and meal tracking gives you a solid foundation for understanding the changes you need to make. And it’s why weight loss programs that require tracking calories usually have better results than those that don’t, with their clients losing around seven pounds more.³
The same goes for tracking steps.
Tracking gives you real data you can use to reach your fitness goals. When you track your steps using a smartwatch, smartphone, or other device, you remove the guesswork. You develop habits and patterns, and just as you would with calories, you can understand what pushes you toward your goal and what holds you back. Plus, as you improve, you can track your progress with ease.
Tracking steps can also be quite motivating. Certain trackers have developed the perfect motivation within their activity tracking. Each morning, you will see that your goals have reset and are waiting to be met. This can be displayed as rings, bars, or any form that shows your progress. As you get closer to your goal, the tracker fills up on its way to being complete. It can be quite addicting (in a good way).
With that motivation comes accountability. Just ask someone who tracks their steps how they feel when they don’t meet their step goal. It really works and can serve as a huge external motivator to nudge yourself into better habits.
Additionally, tracking steps has been proven to lead to more walking per day.
One BYU study found that those wearing a tracker walked an average of 318 more steps per day than those without, even when they had no specific fitness goals in mind.⁴
How much should you walk each day to stay healthy?
That number differs depending on who you ask. A safe bet is to set a goal of 10,000 steps per day. No matter your fitness level or lifestyle, 10,000 steps will help you stay healthy, reduce the risk of illness and disease, and reach your fitness goals.
- Master, Hiral, et al. “Association of step counts over time with the risk of chronic disease in the All of Us Research Program.” nature medicine, find the full study here.
- Goldstein, Stephanie P., et al. “Associations between self-monitoring and weight change in behavioral weight loss interventions.” PubMed, find the full study here.
- Taylor, Williem B., et al. “The Effect of Wearable Activity Monitor Presence on Step Counts.” Ingenta Connect, find the full study here.
- Hartman-Boyce, J., et al. “Effect of behavioural techniques and delivery mode on effectiveness of weight management: systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression.” National Library of Medicine, find the full study here.